The world is made up of systems

It was spring of 2012, I was sitting on the floor of my Gothenburg apartment surrounded by post-it notes. I was determined to find a way to always come up with innovative business ideas. I was looking for the first principles of business.

I had been at this for a while, playing around with theories that never quite held up. While taking a break from the categories and the chaos on my floor I started browsing the Internet lazily.

And there it was, a quote the gave me the first part of the solution of what all businesses are made of. It turns out I owe everything to Rudyard Kipling:

I KEEP six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

I finally got it. All businesses solve one of six root problems. That is all they ever do. The problems only look different on the surface depending on their context, but they are always the same: what, why, when, how, where, and who.

Now I needed to solve the other half of the equation. Now I knew the problems, but what about the solutions?

My obsessive categorization of businesses finally became useful and after shuffling around my post-it notes I saw a trend. There seemed to be only three solutions.

I found that business seems to focus on providing knowledge, services or products. I called these standard solutions information, help, and tools.

However, I quite quickly realized that there were businesses that did not fit neatly into any of these three categories. Some kind of offered information, some kind of offered help, and some kind of offered tools. But these offers were somehow not their main solution.

After considering some of my most visited websites at the time, like Etsy, eBay and Facebook, it dawned on me that the fourth category was market places. This fourth category I call platform and it applies to all businesses that allow two or more stakeholders to interact through a space they are hosting.

So, it seems businesses are built with lego

I now had 10 different variables that gave me 24 distinct business types. I began testing this theory on every single business that I came across.

I was not confident that this simple system really worked, so I kept searching for a way to fault it. I kept coming up blank, the system held.

Instead of questioning the system, I began questioning myself. Who was I, a Swedish lawyer with not much of an entrepreneurial background, with no insights into philosophy, and with no platform to reach people to bring this idea to life?

Maybe if I write a book about it I could earn my “credentials”. So I did, and it was not great. The theory was not fleshed out enough to merit an entire book. I let it all sit uncomfortably on my shelf until 2016.

I was joining a month long business mastermind in Barcelona and decided to revisit the idea again. I went over my notes and wanted to make something tangible that others could use as well. This led me to create the first version of the Matrix:

My name is Janet Alexandersson and I’m a Swedish business lawyer with over 10 years of experience working with startups.

I loves discovering new frontiers and bring enthusiasm and wonder to everything I do.

If you want to get on my good side, include ice cream.

I kept using the Matrix as the only resource for sharing the system with others for a few years. I had no real way of showing how the system actually worked. If they did not connect to my flash of insight, it was difficult to explain and put into practice.

Repeating my pattern I let it rest for another year.

Beginning of 2019 I was scheduled to take part at in a Pentathlon hosted by Ultraworking. I needed to pick a focus for my most important work for two weeks in January. I decided to make Six Times Four my project and to make a course that explained it all.

Half way into the Pentathlon I became discouraged. I wanted this system to be a big part of my life going forward and I wanted my life to be fun.

I scratched the course idea and started thinking about what I liked to do for fun. One of the first things that came to mind was playing boardgames. What if I took the board game mindset and applied it to the Six Times Four System?

During a 30 minute work cycle I sketched out the Board and the Game:

Making it fun made it easy

I used the next 30 minutes to quickly make a prototype in Photoshop. During the last week of the Pentathlon I created a complete system with a board and a game in pdf format.

I now had the perfect way to communicate around my system and let others play around with it.

My sketch morphed into the Six Times Four Board:

Now Six Times Four is ready for you to play with. I hope to see you on future Moongrab sessions.

My hope is that it will make your life as an entrepreneurs easier by helping you decide on which products and services to offer, when to make important pivots, and give you a better understanding of where your industry is headed.

And who knows, maybe you are the one that will solve the challenge of the AP coordinate?

Don’t know about the challenge or the prize? Got get yourself a free board and come play!